Monday, April 24, 2006

Changing of the guard

Looks like Scott McNeely is stepping down as CEO of Sun and leaving Schwartz in charge. This is kind of weird, because, a few days ago, he joked about that particular ages-long rumor (his leaving) still going strong and still just being a rumor.

This could be very interesting. Good interesting or bad interesting is yet to be seen, but it could be interesting if nothing else. Hopefully Sun won’t nosedive after this (yes, I know that a lot of you are screaming that Sun’s been sinking for years).

Call me weird, but I’m rather fond of several of the company’s products. Their hardware is insanely great, Java is nice, and anyone who uses Linux or Unix-like operating systems has to like NFS (yes, you have Sun to thank for that). I would include OpenOffice in that list, but it was initially the result of the acquisition of Star Office, so it only sort of counts.

I think it’s funny that people seem to hate Sun for no real reason. I honestly think that it’s envy.

They complain about the boxes being too expensive - they are expensive, but they’re really worth it and run like tanks. What can I say? I WANT a Sun box at some point.

They complain about Solaris being flaky - not really true. There is the occasional bug or the one release of the operating system (which will remain nameless) that *ahem* didn’t perform that well, but on the whole, it’s an incredibly solid platform.

They cry bloody murder about Java (usually pulling out chestnuts that may have been true 10 years ago, but often weren’t even then) –
• “It’s not free! The information wants to be freeeeeee! (People who know me can insert the bird-like arm flapping here)” – They gave you the language. They document the whole thing. The only things that aren’t “free” (in the way you want it. It doesn’t cost you anything) are the JVM and the JRE. Get over yourself. Standards and languages should be open and well-documented (and this is something that Sun does remarkably well), but not everything has to be “free as in speech”
• “It doesn’t have pointers” - It’s not C++, people. That was part of the POINT of Java. Languages are tools. You use the one that best meets your needs. Part of the reason Java was created was to help prevent a lot of the common problems that occur in everyday C++ style code (memory leaks, referencing null pointers, etc).
• “It’s a memory hog” - it’s a little resource intense, but it’s not really that bad, honestly.
• “It’s SLOW!!1oneoneone!” - Slow? It takes a few seconds to initially load the VM, but after that, it’s about as fast as a native app. It’s not meant for an app that you open and close all day. It’s meant for medium to long term use applications. This is why they stress the garbage collection so much.
• “It’s ugly!” – Has anyone ever told you that you can make Swing apps look native? It takes a couple lines of code. Try cracking open a book sometime.
• “Swing sucks!!1oneoneone!” – Nice troll. I admit that when it came out, Swing wasn’t that great, but it’s gotten a whooooole lot better.
• “Write once, debug everywhere! Harharhar I’m so clever!” – You know, if you stick to the core libraries and don’t do anything stupid, there’s not a whole lot (if anything at all) that you need to change in order to run it on different platforms. The problem is that people seem to love using non-standard libraries or (even worse) some lame, half-assed third party JVM. Have you ever seen what you need to do to C or C++ to get it to run other places if you’re doing non-trivial things? They actually make programs and scripts to help automate the changes if that tells you anything.

Java was a big enough threat to Microsoft that MS decided to release their own version of it back in the 90’s in an attempt to fragment the community and break the battle cry of “write once, run everywhere.” After they found out that they couldn’t kill it off, they decided to make C# (which, if you look at it, is a whooooooole lot like Java).

I don’t want this to come off sounding like I’m a Sun fanatic. I’m not a fanatic of anything, really (except maybe usability). I believe that languages and platforms are tools and should be viewed as such. I just dislike when people try to trash things that they know nothing (or very little) about.

I just hope that Sun is able to stick around for a long time to come. They make good tools =]

Current mood: neutral
Current music: Dirty Vegas – Days Go By

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I was called in for an interview with a local school district for the position of Tech Coordinator. Keep in mind that they are the ones who contacted me.

I walked into the conference room and was looked at in a manner that I really didn’t like. It was the look of “he’s too young”. It didn’t matter that I had all the experience required for the position (minus experience in writing grants, which really aren’t that hard to do), that I carry myself with dignity, and act in a relaxed yet professional manner. I was sitting on the other side of the table from a group composed of people anywhere from 40-60 or so years old who were basically going down their checklist and not showing any interest in me as a candidate because I was younger than they were.

Funny, I thought that we were all adults here.

The “no thank you” letter came today, not that it was a surprise after their behavior in the interview.

If you aren’t seriously interested in me as a possible member of your organization, then don’t contact me. My time is important to me and I do not really care for being jerked around, nor do I care for paying for travel expenses to speak with a company or organization which has no intention of hiring me.

People, I have development experience. I have experience in leading a team, and I have firsthand experience in how business works from my work on a startup. I am not an unqualified individual, and I expect at least a little professionalism in the way I am treated because I give it to others.

That said, if anyone is honestly interested in hiring me, please feel free to contact me. the email address is

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Thousand Foot Krutch - move

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sometimes, it really is the simple things.

Checking the mail today, I got a pleasant surprise – a letter. I stared at it for a minute, trying to figure out who it was from and then it hit me. It was an old friend of mine (whose last name now that she’s married I can never remember, hence my confusion at the return address).

She never writes me letters. The last time I got an actual pen and paper letter from her was probably 8 or 9 years ago when she sent me a few new photos.

In this age of email, sometimes it’s just really nice to get a real, physical letter. It brought a smile to me. I love that girl to death and I really do miss her sometimes. It’s a shame we aren’t closer geographically.

Current mood: happy
Current music: Dirty Vegas – A Million Ways

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Do you happen to know the definition of funny?

There are a few, but I was sent a new one this evening – a job opening that required “very strong” experience in several varied technologies as well as several years of project management experience, expected the person applying to do three separate jobs (developer, manager, AND an Oracle DBA) and which offered to pay less than a lot of manufacturing jobs in this area.

Now that’s funny.

Thank you, but I believe I’ll pass.

Current mood: amused
Current music: Tonic – Casual Affair

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My wrists are now happier. The wrist rests that I ordered for the laptop are here. It feels so good not to have to twist my wrists to type on this keyboard.

Now I just have to get used to the new position my wrists are in, but I have absolutely no problem with that *grin*

The only real downside is that it makes me take a hand off the keyboard to use the track pad, but that’s okay too since I don’t use the mouse all that much anyway =]

If anyone uses a laptop regularly (or has one as their only computer), I recommend getting a pair of these. They really help. And let’s face it – your wrists are worth more than $15.

Current mood: happy
Current music: Coheed and Cambria – the suffering

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Solutions in search of a problem

It seems that the creator of Eiffel (a programming language) has decided (after a very long time) to open source their IDE for it.

Never heard of Eiffel? I’m not surprised. It was a clunky, unforgiving “you must do things my way” language that lost out to C++.

This news got posted to Slashdot. Many people immediately started praising the language (even those who admitted that they have never used it). And then the “If you want to try something really cool, you need to try [insert language here]”

I swear that all of these people are doing the old “I have a solution in search of a problem” dance. This is something that annoys the living daylights out of me. Do you have so little to do that you feel the need to go “my toy is better than your toy”?

Some languages have real use and are widely used out there in the world. C and C++ for when you need to be pretty close to the metal. Assembly for when you need to be REALLY close to the metal (or feel like giving yourself a headache). Ruby, Perl, etc for when you want to script out things or work really fast. Java or C# for various stuff. PHP, ASP, Rails, etc etc etc if you want to have web stuff.

Even *shudder* Lisp for when you want to get things done and/or give yourself an aneurism (I can’t believe I spelled that properly) while dealing with an almost entirely recursive language.

No, this was not a complete list, and I realize that. I was just making a point.

The point is that if your language does something new and useful (or even just a LOT better than the other option out there), great. Let us know. We might give it a shot. However, don’t get bent out of shape if we tell you we’re not interested afterward and PLEASE for the love of anything worthy of love do not show us some “I took [language] and added [feature] and now I want to call it [new name]. You all need to use this now” crap.

We’re likely to bash you over the head with vi (or your editor of choice) and replace you with a very small shell script. Let’s face it – we’d get more use out of the shell script than your pontificating about dead/dying languages. And we can always route the output for the shell script to /dev/null

Why the obsessions with the also-rans? They tried. They failed. Almost nobody uses them.

Almost nobody uses them for a reason. Just let it go.

Current mood: tired
Current music: Everclear – When it all goes wrong again

Monday, April 03, 2006

It was really tempting to go out for a while today until the wind really picked up and it started raining sporadically. With my luck, I’d get hit with a large tree limb while wandering through the park.

On the positive side, at least my business cards got here today (and several days ahead of schedule).

Current mood: bored
Current music: REM – Shiny Happy People

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Where I’m coming from

I wasn’t around long enough to have to experience punch cards or paper tape.

My first computer used a television as a monitor and could only save to audio tape. I first learned to program in BASIC when it was the only real option and back then I found it was faster to simply re-type programs most of the time. The command line was my friend and I still use it a lot (as well as key combinations).

I got to spend some time on BBSes before the internet was a normal thing to have access to. In fact, I used to have some of the basic modem commands memorized.

Printers were an expensive dream until I was a teenager when my parents got me my first computer with a hard drive. It was a 100mhz 486 (one of the last of the 486s actually) that I eventually modded the living daylights out of and dubbed Frankenstein because it was cheaper than buying a new computer (being a kid, I didn’t have a lot of money). With it, they got me a dot matrix printer which actually had an LCD display and menus (it was a real geek printer).

Back then, Sneakernet was almost the only way to get new and interesting software and information if you weren’t lucky enough to have BBS access. The other way was the meager software selections that some stores offered (there was actually a store in my small hometown that sold copies of shareware games and applications. It became a big deal to us).

I remember when AOL finally got dial up numbers even remotely close to us. We were all still running Windows 3.1x and my friend was the only one of us who had a modem. His mother (who basically claimed me as another son) got an account for us and we inevitably racked up an insane phone bill because it turns out the number they gave us was just out of local calling range.

(This is the point at which I thank her for not killing us. Thank you, Kim.)

We discovered IRC. I still remember #kwik-e-mart fondly (!squishy).

(I should also make a comment here which will only make sense to a very small handful of people who might come across this – “Bob Dole wants out!”)

My two friends and I learned HTML (later joined by another friend), made websites on geocities when it was still the best option out there, and got Hotmail accounts because it was the only way we could all have email addresses. From there, we began learning more (we even took a stab at Java 1) and started talking to people around the world who had similar interests, making many friends along the way.

I remember when MP3s came out (and was upset when Frankenstein was too slow to play them). I also remember the mod file scene that came before it. In fact, I think I still have a copy of Cubic Player and a stack of floppies worth of mod files around here somewhere.

Sometime while all of this was happening, an ISP started up in the next town over. They had all of a couple of modems in the beginning and the speeds were horrible, but it was better than AOL. By this point, we had all gotten modems and could do things from our own homes instead of Eric’s or the library (as long as our parents didn’t threaten to kill us for tying up the phone line).

We kept learning new things and meeting new people. Some of us even went on to meet at least a few of the people we met online in person and got very close to some of them. Good times were had, in one case love was found, and tragedies were shared (not least among them was when a very good friend that I’d gotten to know over the course of several years died along with her two children in a car crash late one night).

We were introduced to Linux back when it was only practical to buy on CD and was a pain in the ass to install and get working (It ate my hard drive. I’m glad it’s much easier now.). Before then, the only Unix machines we had ever seen were at the other end of a very long strand of wire that made ear-splitting squealing sounds if you listened to it.

Between the start of it all and now, a lot of things have happened. New computers, new technologies, a great deal of learning, meeting and losing friends, high school graduation, college and graduation from there, the rise of the search engine, and a lot of other things of a personal and technical nature.

Here’s to hoping that we get to keep learning and meeting new people. I wish you luck, my friends, wherever you are. I remember the time fondly and hope that you are all well.

Current mood: thoughtful
Current music: Mr Big - Shine